Conservatism

Will Rick Perry Execute Another Innocent Man?

Rick Perry's struggles with the GOP base can largely be traced back to the debate in late September in which he called opposition to tuition assistance for illegal immigrants "heartless." Given his subsequent drop in the polls, he is now contemplating skipping future debates. But for liberal audiences, the most chilling moment of Perry's brief debate history came when he defended Texas' status as the country's execution leader. Perry practically reveled with glee as he described dolling out the "ultimate justice" (at the time, I noted his sharp departure in tone from the last Texas governor who ran for president). It was a truly disturbing moment because evidence from one case in Texas indicates that at least one innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was put to death during Perry's tenure as governor. And Perry may be on his way to executing another innocent man. Hank Skinner was convicted of killing three people—his girlfriend and her two children—and sentenced to death in 1995. His...

The GOP's Broken Record

For the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency, economic policy in the United States had as its lodestar the view that we needed to lower taxes. Liberals objected that Bush-era tax-policy proposals were regressive, tilting the majority of their benefits to high-income taxpayers who had the least need for additional funds. The retort at the time was that this was a misleading way to think about it: The lower taxes weren't simply designed to bolster individual incomes; they were supposed to bolster overall economic growth. Higher growth rates would result in higher incomes for people up and down the economic ladder. The results of this policy have been disappointing, to say the least. Even those who claim that the economic health of the middle class is being understated are producing charts that show ten years of flat incomes for the median American household . In response, Republican presidential candidates are uniformly proposing new rounds of regressive tax cuts. The right's...

Rick Perry Promises Four Years of Abysmal Job Growth

Texas Governor Rick Perry has released his first television ad, and in it, he makes a big promise. “As president, I will create at least 2 and half million new jobs.” The problem, as Steve Benen points out , is that this is a lot less impressive than it sounds. Since the recession officially ended a year and a half ago, the economy has added 2.56 million private-sector jobs . Unfortunately, thanks largely to public sector layoffs, net job growth comes to 2.1 million jobs. Even still, President Obama’s record of 2.1 million jobs in eighteen months – lackluster as it is – is far preferable to Perry’s promise of 2.5 million jobs in four years.

The Impermanent Majority

President Bush, left, puts his arm around White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove as they appear before reporters during a news conference announcing Rove's resignation, Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
After George W. Bush was elected in 2000, his advisers and allies set about solidifying their control of Congress. In short order, the phrase "permanent Republican majority" started to get bandied about ( here is a reference to it in a Time magazine article from April 2001). That idea partly concerned efforts by Bush and Karl Rove to expand the Republican base to include groups like Latinos, but mostly referred to the House of Representatives. With the right mix of money, targeted legislation, and clever redistricting (the cocktail that landed Tom DeLay in jail), Republicans could make their grip on the House all but impossible to break. For a while, it seemed to be working. Republicans gained seats in 2002, then Bush won re-election in 2004, and a spate of books arrived explaining how Republicans were redrawing the American political map for a generation to come (see here , here , and here ). But it turned out to be anything but permanent. Democrats won back both houses of Congress...

Getting the Details Right

The political corner of the Internet shared a nice laugh yesterday about Herman Cain's latest campaign ad. Cain's chief of smoking chief of staff Mark Block went on Fox News to explain the video. Megan Kelly asked if it was directed at farmers or workers in Detroit, rather than the West- and East-coast liberals in the media (contra the newsrooms staffed by chain smokers where I've worked). "I tell you, you walk into a veterans' bar in Iowa and they're sitting around smoking, and we are resonating with them," Block said. As National Journal notes , in 2008 Iowa banned indoor smoking for most venues, even bars frequented by veterans. I lived in Iowa at that time and my memories are full of disgruntled friends leaving their drinks to go shiver outside the bar doorway as they railed against the new law. It's a silly, immaterial flub for Block, though it is yet another sign that Cain is not running a real presidential campaign. Walk through most Iowa small towns and you'd spot the crowd of...

Climate Control

As their ranks diminish, global warming skeptics target scientists

AP Photo/John Giles
Last week Richard Muller and his team released the findings of their exhaustive study on global warming with definitive simplicity, saying flatly “global warming is real.” The statement is an especially damning one to climate change deniers, as Muller, himself once a global warming skeptic, conducted the study partly with funds from the Koch brothers. As even skeptics like Muller begin to accept the overwhelming science behind global warming, opponents are taking up a new tactic that goes after the scientists themselves. One of these scientists is Michael Mann, a climatologist who, since January, has been targeted by climate-deniers.Following the example of the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries, which have a tradition of attacking the credibility of scientists who oppose their products, skeptics are beginning question the credentials and research of individual scientists. Since 2007, when a Supreme Court ruling found that, under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has the right to regulate...

Running Out the Clock on Government Regulations

House bill could hamstring important protections

Tuesday, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary passed, on a party-line vote, one of the most sweeping attacks in decades on government protections. The Rules from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) bill would require that any major rule issued by a federal agency be affirmed by a majority vote in both the House and Senate. The vote would have to take place within 70 days. Proponents of the legislation claim that it would lead to improved regulations, but its real effect would be to hamstring government agencies so that rules that do not pass muster with the radical Republicans in the House—say, regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency or the Securities and Exchange Commission—would never be adopted. Leaving aside outright opposition to specific rules, many new regulations would fail simply because of time constraints. Over the past decade, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, the federal government has never issued fewer than 50 major rules in a...

The Most Inconsequential Debate

Yesterday I detailed how the leading figures of Iowa's evangelical community have all dilly-dallied about picking a favorite presidential candidate. As if on cue, one of those major players announced that he would be moderating one of the more bizarrely formatted debates of a modern presidential campaign. Rep. Steve King will referee a “modified Lincoln–Douglas debate” between Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain in Texas on November 5. It should be a bizarre exchange. Gingrich has been expressing an interest of late in a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate where he would no longer face pesky questions from journalists, but it was always in the context of facing Barack Obama in the general election. Where those candidates would readily hammer away at their differences, a Cain-Gingrich matchup should be a dull affair. The two have appeared personally friendly throughout the campaign and won't diverge too substantially on policy. About the only thing the debate proves is that—despite his rise in...

Bob the Builder Bails on Perry

He dropped precipitously in recent polls after conservatives began to question his stance on illegal immigration, but most political pundits still think Rick Perry has a strong chance at winning the GOP presidential nomination. Perry's still in the running in part because of the relative weakness of the rest of the field. Mitt Romney, who looks like the consensus candidate, has made a career of straying from conservative dogma, including passing universal health care as governor of Massachusetts. And the candidates who have stuck close to the Tea Party line, Michele Bachmann specifically, are mostly unserious contenders, whose campaigns appear predicated on book sales rather than governance. With Perry, conservative Republicans were supposed to have a serious candidate who, most importantly of all, brought a fundraising infrastructure to the game. He tallied over $17 million during his first month and a half as a candidate. Super PACs sprung up to tout his campaign before Perry had...

Bachmann’s Staff Revolt

For a time it looked as though Michele Bachmann would be Mitt Romney’s main opponent for the GOP presidential nomination. She launched her campaign in June to significant fanfare, gracing the covers of national magazines and rising to the top of polls in Iowa. She was expected to be a fundraising juggernaut based on her high-dollar US House campaigns. In August she finished first at the Iowa Straw Poll, pushing fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty out of the race in the process. It turned out to be a short-lived streak. Rick Perry stole her thunder when he announced his campaign on the very same day Bachmann won the straw poll, replacing her as the front-runner. Her presence began to recede in the debates, only getting noticed when she made far-out statements scaring parents from vaccinating children. At Florida P5 in September—the next major straw poll after Iowa—Bachmann finished dead last, getting only 1.5% of the 2,600 votes. Now her campaign is officially in tatters. Late last week,...

Iowa Conservatives Still Searching for a Candidate

Photo credit: Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Six of the Republican presidential wannabes traveled to Iowa this past Saturday to try to win over a crowd of over 1,000 evangelicals at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's banquet dinner in Des Moines. All of the major contenders (except Mitt Romney) spoke, playing up their social conservative bona fides for a crowd that could play a deciding role in the "first in the nation" state. Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition—headed by president Steve Scheffler—is one of the state's most powerful conservative organizations thanks to the voter guides they hand out during elections and the lobbying they do in the state legislature, most often pushing anti-LGBT rights legislation. Scheffler was instrumental in building the coalition of Christian activists that tilted the state's GOP further to the right over the past decade. He spearheaded the Iowa branch of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition in the 1990s, but bolted to form his own group called the Iowa Christian Alliance in the mid-2000s...

Mitt Romney and the Flat Tax

Steve Forbes, famed supply-side guru, has announced his support for both Rick Perry’s presidential bid and his forth coming plan for a flat tax. Says Forbes of the Texas governor’s plan: Perry’s plan places him at the far edge of mainstream politics, but squarely within the consensus of the Republican Party, which has made a sharp turn to the right on issues of taxation. In addition, it places him in a favorable position vis a vis former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who – as The New York Times reports – has a “long record of criticizing such plans and famously derided Steve Forbes’s 1996 proposal as a ‘tax cut for fat cats.’ Of course, with prominent Republicans pushing for a flat tax, it’s likely that Romney will relent and release his own proposal for instituting a single income tax rate. As The Times writes, “Lately…his tone has been more positive. ‘I love a flat tax,’ he said in August.” There are two takeaways here. First is the fact that, as a politician, Mitt Romney has...

Herman Cain: Yesterday, Totally Pro-Choice. Today, Totally Pro-Life

Yesterday morning, I looked into my crystal ball and boldly predicted that within 48 hours, Herman Cain would walk back his surprisingly pro-choice comments on abortion ("So what I'm saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide") and come out for full-on, abortion-should-be-illegal anti-choicism. Well here you go : FOX HOST MARTHA MACCALLUM: Do you believe that abortion should be legal in this country for families who want to make that decision [to abort]? CAIN: No. I do not believe abortion should be legal in this country, if that's the question. MACCALLUM: So then you're saying that if those circumstances come up and the family does make that decision, that they decide that that is the best thing for this young person or she decides that on her own, then if that's what they decided, then it would be an illegal...

"The Romney Rule"

Priorities USA, the Democratic consulting firm backed by former Clinton staffer Paul Begala, is out with its first ad attacking former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. It’s a good one: Like the The Washington Post ’s Greg Sargent , I think that this will be a potent line of attack should Romney become the Republican nominee for president. As the wealthiest GOP candidate for president, Romney is uniquely ill-suited to press against higher taxes for the richest Americans, and for an overall low tax burden on the wealthy. Indeed, given the current popularity of higher taxes on the rich – and the growing popularity of Occupy Wall Street – an election fought on these grounds is bad territory for the Romney campaign. I should say that there is a practical policy danger in devoting so much attention to taxes for the rich. In the medium-term, middle-class taxes will have to go up. Unless we return to Clinton-era rates, there is no way – other than new taxes on consumption or carbon – to...

Everything Is Culture

The environmental story of the day concerns a project started by a climate skeptic named Richard Muller, a physicist who was so convinced that actual climate scientists were distorting or misreading the data that he started his own project, called the Berkeley Earth Science Temperature project, to double-check them. Climate deniers were excited -- at last, some actual scientists would prove that global warming is a hoax! The Charles G. Koch foundation even gave money to the project. One prominent climate denier blogger, Anthony Watts, wrote, "I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong." You may be able to guess where this is going. Brad Plumer explains : So what are the end results? Muller’s team appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science. Back in March, Muller told the House Science and Technology Committee that, contrary to what he expected, the existing temperature data was “excellent.” He went on: “We see a global...

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